Sahara is a big, dumb, improbable, kid-friendly adventure yarn. And much like last summer’s big, dumb, improbable, kid-friendly adventure yarn, National Treasure, it is decent popcorn entertainment, provided you’re willing to temporarily put aside all ability to reason, ponder and use opposable thumbs.
In this adaptation of a Clive Cussler novel starring his hero Dirk Pitt, director Breck Eisner (son of Disney’s Michael Eisner — ahhh, the joys of being the child of a movie mogul) does little more than string together a bunch of preposterous chases, close calls and explosions, several of which are slightly remodified versions of scenes from the Raiders of the Lost Ark trilogy. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, this sort of stuff would be labeled derring-do. Maybe it still is. Eisner’s direction is hackneyed, and the editing is far too jumbled to really follow much of the action, but the goofiness of it all is, grudgingly, pretty damn fun.
Sahara‘s biggest drawback, aside from it being utterly ridiculous (and since that’s part of the good time, who can really call that a drawback?) is a cast in desperate need of a collective bitch slap.
The inexplicably famous Matthew McConaughey, who stars as our hero, looks and acts as if he’d be more comfortable spring breaking it at Padre Island than racing through desert sands. As the beautiful and brainy love interest, Penelope Cruz offers line readings slightly more proficiently than that of a trained seal.
And as the trusty sidekick, Steve Zahn plays Steve Zahn, which is to say he is engaging enough in that smartassed sidekick sort of way, until you realize about two-thirds of the way through that the filmmakers have no intention of killing this guy off.